Look through any window in Evergreen Park (or in much of the Chicago area, for that matter) and there’s a significant chance that Bob Grilec and his team installed it.
The hands-on owner of Evergreen Door & Window since 1988, Grilec estimates that the company has installed windows and doors in at least one home on every block in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn---and thousands elsewhere.
Successful as he is, Grilec comes across as a regular Joe dedicated to customer satisfaction and making sure everyone gets a square deal.
He grew up near 63rd and Damen on Chicago’s Southwest Side, graduating from Bogan High School in 1974.
Right out of high school Grilec started working for the company, founded in a storefront at 47th and Wolcott and known as Drovers Home Improvement (named after the venerable Drovers National Bank at 47th and Ashland) and later renamed Park Home Improvement. He learned the window and door business from the ground up, starting as an installer and later working in sales when vinyl windows first came onto the scene.
In 1988, when the company faltered financially, Grilec heard the knock of opportunity.
So he approached his parents, Vernon and June Grilec, whom he credits with giving him a firm foundation and a strong work ethic.
“They were good, solid German parents,” he recalls with a smile, “right down to the day when I wanted to buy this business and went to them for a loan. We sat across from each other at the kitchen table and my mom said ‘Parents are for loving. Banks are for lending.’ And she was right. So to make a long story short, I headed over to the bank at 103rd and Cicero, applied for and got a loan on the spot.”
As the new owner, Grilec got busy paying back bills, getting the company on an even keel and saving the jobs of his fellow employees.
Twenty five years later, Evergreen Door & Window is well-known, highly respected and thriving, with a staff of 30 employees---all full time and most with long tenures at the company, Grilec points to with pride. “Treat your employees right, and they’ll stick with you,” he observes. “Everyone benefits.”
He points to his staff as a big reason why the company is a success.
“Our office staff, our sales staff, our installers are experienced, well trained and firmly committed to customer satisfaction,” he says. “That explains why such a high percentage of our business comes through referrals, and why we have, in some cases, customers who are the third generation in their family to choose us.”
The Evergreen Door & Window Difference
Ask him what sets his business apart from others in a crowded home improvement field, and Grilec can recite a list of at least a dozen reasons. But he focuses on three things:
- Top-quality products like Pella, Anderson and Marvin wood doors and windows; Provia, Therma Tru and Albany fiberglass/steel doors; and Simonton, Sunrise and Great Lakes vinyl windows.
- Installers who are highly trained and certified to install correctly. “When you do business with us, you know who you’re dealing with,” he says as he gestures with pride to a group photo of his full-time installers. Like many in the industry, Grilec has heard his share of horror stories about people who purchase from other companies (like big-box retailers) and then struggle with an unreliable subcontractor employing unskilled installers.
- His commitment to safety and environmental responsibility. Grilec speaks with pride about the measures his installers take to minimize exposure to lead dust when they remove old window frames, an issue in virtually all homes built before lead was banned in 1978. “Lead is a serious concern to peoples’ health, especially children and pregnant women. We are a leader in our industry when it comes to the health and safety of our customers.”
The company is also ahead of the curve on compliance with federal regulations on UV and air filtration measures relating to windows and glass.
In addition to doors and windows of all kinds, the company sells and installs other exterior home improvements like siding, awnings, gutters, decks, fencing and more.
Mindful of its neighbors in the village, Evergreen Door & Window is well known for keeping its building and grounds clean and orderly.
“We fully understand the responsibility that comes with being a business so close to a residential area,” adds Office Manager Betty Carter. “That’s why we maintain a separate warehouse in Crestwood. We want to make sure we’re respectful of and friendly to our neighbors.”
Evergreen Park Pride
Grilec and Shannon, his wife of 33 years, have lived in Evergreen Park for 22 years. Their daughter Carrie and son Chad are products of Evergreen Park schools. Chad plays an active role in the business today. The Grilecs “are blessed with six grandchildren,” as Bob Grilec says with a smile.
While always ready to talk about windows and doors, Grilec also speaks with pride about having a business headquartered in the village.
“Evergreen Park is a great place to be,” he says as he gestures to traffic flowing past his front window on a bustling 95th Street. “The mayor is strong, effective and supportive of the business community. The people who live here understand the importance of doing business locally.”